A resurgent Rafael Nadal, who has already won two titles on his beloved clay this year, is chasing a 10th French Open singles title. He could meet world number one and great rival Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.
Nadal is showing signs he may be getting back to his dominant best on clay but the Spaniard will likely have to get past Djokovic if he is to claim a record-extending 10th Roland Garros crown.
Nadal is on course for a showdown with the Serb, who knocked him out in straight sets in the last eight last year, in the semifinals after the draw for the 2016 edition was made in Paris on Friday.
After battling illness and injury in recent years, Nadal has two titles on the red dust this year, the Masters in Monte Carlo and the Barcelona Open.
Djokovic, who still needs to win the French Open to complete his grand slam collection and was runner-up in 2015, lost to Andy Murray in the final at last week's Rome Masters, where he also bested Nadal in the last eight.
Promoted to fourth seed in the French capital following the withdrawal of the injured Roger Federer, Nadal plays big-serving Australian Sam Groth in the opening round and Djokovic meets Lu Yen-Hsun of Taipei.
“This is a special tournament for me, it's always circled on my calendar,” Nadal said this week.
“The important thing is that I enjoy tennis, enjoy being on the court … and I feel competitive against all my opponents,” added the 29–year-old Mallorcan. “That's what makes me happy.”
In the women's draw, defending champion Serena Williams ended a nine-month title drought with victory on the clay in Rome last week.
The top-ranked American, who has 70 career singles titles, including 21 majors, will be keen to avoid a repeat of her shock first-round exit to Virginie Razzano four years ago when she opens her title defense against Slovakia's Magdalena Rybarikova.
"It felt good to win in Rome, obviously, I was feeling pretty confident," Williams said on Friday.
"For me, if I'm not winning, I'm not happy about my year," added the 34–year-old.
"Four tournaments and three finals isn't bad for everyone else. Then again I'm not everyone else."
Williams faces a possible quarterfinal against Belarussian former number one Victoria Azarenka and a potential meeting with Germany's Angelique Kerber in the last four.
Seeded third in Paris, Kerber, who beat Williams in the 2016 Austraian Open final to claim her first grand slam singles title, begins her bid against Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands.
Philipp Kohlschreiber, the top seeded German at 24, will lead his nation's charge in the men's draw.
Meanwhile, 19-year-old Alexander Zverev, 13 years younger than compatriot Kohlschreiber, will look to justify his obvious promise on one of the sport's biggest stages.
French hopes of a first men's singles winner since Yannick Noah in 1983 were hit on Friday when former semi-finalist and crowd favorite Gael Monfils withdrew due to illness.
The tournament starts on Sunday and ends with the men's final on June 5.